Posted on September 13, 2017 by Greg MacKinnon
Hartford – On Tuesday, State Representatives Mitch Bolinsky (R-106), William Duff (R-2), and J.P. Sredzinski (R-112), along with State Senator Tony Hwang (R-28) joined together to release a revised two-year state budget proposal with no new taxes that would put a stop to the governor’s executive order, restore funding for education and core social services, and provide stability for towns and cities.
The revised budget proposal offered by Senate and House Republicans includes no tax increases and rejects the governor’s proposal to shift teacher pension costs onto towns and cities that would further burden municipalities and lead to increased property taxes. The Republican budget proposal combines elements of the Senate and House Republicans’ multiple prior budget proposals released earlier this year, feedback from Democrat lawmakers and the governor, and factors in the legislature’s passage of the state employee labor concessions deal that is now law.
Rep. Bolinsky (R-106) remarked, “I was horrified on Monday, September 11 that Speaker Aresimowicz and Majority Leader Ritter turned away Republican leaders Klarides and Fasano upon their arrival for a scheduled 12:30PM budget negotiation meeting. Can you imagine slamming the door on the only people at the Capitol who have, time and again, presented fully-vetted, balanced budget proposals with no new taxes? Can anything be more disrespectful to them and the 44% of Connecticut’s voters they represent than this closed-door power play by the majority party, which has demonstrated tax and spent policies that have brought a once prosperous state to its fiscal knees?
“Everyone should know that, unlike the Legislative Majority’s tax, tax, tax plans, Republican proposals restore education funding, eliminate municipal cuts, provide relief from heavy-handed state mandates and make permanent, sustainable structural changes to a broken state government. As far as the Social Services Safety Net, we fully fund day and employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, restore Care4Kids, fund school based health clinics, support family resource centers and restore funding for senior programs, mental health services and more.
“Can you envision a leaner, more responsive, efficient state government doing all that? Unfortunately, Connecticut Democrats can’t. Their only vision is focused on your wallet, higher taxes and more of the same failed policies that just don’t work,” concluded Bolinsky.
“We owe it to the residents of this state to think outside of the box and to provide real solutions; this no-tax increase budget accomplishes that goal. I will not any support any tax increase that on our hard working state residents,” said Rep. Will Duff (R-2). “Raising taxes yet again to combat gross overspending is not and has not been the answer. Connecticut residents have already been part of two of the largest tax increases in its history in just the past six years alone.”
“My worst suspicions about the budget process seem to be coming to fruition – that the governor and majority leadership had no interest in negotiating with Republicans or considering our ideas to reform the bureaucracy,” said Rep. Sredzinski (R-112). “I will reiterate that a budget with tax increases is not the only option for the State of Connecticut. I intend on supporting and voting for the House Republican no-tax increase budget proposal which still maintains flat levels of municipal funding statewide. We’ve seen two record tax hikes in the past six years that have completely failed to fix our fiscal crisis. Instead of tax increases, we need to reduce our spending and find creative ways to make state government more efficient.”
“Republicans have a detailed solution to move Connecticut in a new, sustainable, predictable direction,” Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) said. “Our Republican proposal contains no new taxes, reduces taxes for retirees, and restores funding for local education. It protects property taxpayers while restoring funding for core social services for our neediest residents. Our line-by-line plan provides property tax and educational funding stability for towns and cities while making structural budgetary changes such as an enforceable state spending cap, voting on labor contracts and effective bond cap. We also prioritize progress to upgrade and innovate our transportation infrastructure. All of this will generate a predictable, sustainable and transparent ecosystem where Connecticut businesses can thrive and grow. Time is of the essence to protect our communities and our most vulnerable and at-risk residents.”
No New Taxes
The revised Republican budget contains no new taxes. It does not increase or expand the sales tax, hospital tax or income tax. It also rejects the governor’s proposal to shift teacher pension costs onto municipalities as such a policy change would likely result in property tax increases.
The Republican budget enacts two policies that will reduce taxes for retirees by phasing in a tax exemption for Social Security and pension income for middle income families. In addition, the Republican budget also restores the entire $200 property tax credit for all qualifying families and individuals. Under Governor Malloy’s tenure this tax credit has been reduced from $500 and we believe that property owners deserve a break on their taxes.
Increases Education Funding
The Republican budget rejects the governor’s devastating education cuts contained in his budget proposal and executive order entirely. It instead includes a fully revised Education Cost Sharing Formula that takes into account factors regarding recent court decisions, enrollment, poverty, wealth and number of English Language Learners, among other factors. This budget dedicates $33.6 million more to education in FY 2018 and $136.6 million more in FY 2019 and phases in a new formula over 10 years. It also establishes a council to analyze and make any necessary changes to the new formula within the next year if deemed necessary. In 2018 all towns and cities’ base ECS grant will either be held harmless or gain more funding.
Municipal Support and Mandate Relief
This budget provides predictable municipal aid so that towns and cities know what they can count on from the state. This plan does not ask towns and cities to pay for teacher retirement costs as the governor’s proposal does. It also implements significant mandate relief for cities and towns to help municipalities achieve efficiencies and pass savings on to taxpayers.
Funds Core Social Services
This revised budget maintains Republican proposals to restore funding for core social services and programs that benefit people most in need. It fully funds day and employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, reopens Care4Kids, protects funding for SAGA that supports disabled residents who are unable to work, funds school based health clinics and family resource centers, restores funding for mental health services among many other programs.
The Republican budget recognizes the importance of a safe, modern transportation system to public safety and economic growth throughout our state. Therefore, this budget prioritizes the state’s transportation needs and stabilizes funding without tolls or new taxes. It implements the Republican “Prioritize Progress” transportation funding plan and stabilizes the state’s Special Transportation Plan by dedicating transportation-related revenues to fund transportation needs and protects monies in the state’s Special Transportation Fund from being diverted for other uses.
The Republican budget lowers taxes for retirees by immediately eliminating the tax on social security and phasing in an elimination of taxation of pension income for single filers with an AGI below $75,000 and joint filers below $100,000. It also helps seniors age in place by restoring funding for core programs such as Meals on Wheels, the personal needs allowance, non ADA dial a ride, and the CT Home Care Program.
Employment and Day Opportunities for the Intellectually Disabled
Our budget fully funds employment and day opportunities for new high school graduates over the biennium, nor does the Republican Budget carry forward reductions imposed by Governor Malloy to employment and day opportunities services for the intellectually disabled.
Funds State Parks & Tourism
Acknowledging the multiplier effect that tourism has on our economy, the Republican budget proposes to transfer 1.5% of the current hotel occupancy tax to a new Marketing, Culture and Tourism account. This is not a new tax as Democrats have proposed. Rather, it dedicates a portion of the current tax for its intended purpose to boost tourism funding. This budget also implements the Passports to Parks program that has garnered bipartisan support in the legislature.
Reduces Size of Government
The Republican budget proposal includes overtime savings of 10 percent, a hiring freeze on non-24-hour non-union positions, and makes cuts to the legislature such as reducing the number of legislative committees. The budget also makes targeted spending cuts, 10 percent reductions to certain agency accounts, and rolls forward lapses made last year except for cuts to core services such as grants for mental health and substance abuse and youth service bureau funding.
Includes Structural Changes
In addition to balancing the budget over the next two years, this budget includes policy changes that roll out into future years to achieve significant savings. Changes include items such as a spending cap, bonding cap, municipal mandate relief, and other policy changes for long term savings. The budget also implements pension reform beginning after the SEBAC deal ends in 2027 that will result in some immediate savings as calculated in an actuarial analysis.